Retirement & Financial Planning Report

A new study has documented how health shocks, even those classified as minor, can interrupt or even end a working career, adding that the risk increases with age.

The report by the Urban Institute is of special interest to those wishing to extend their working careers, as is now common both inside the federal government—where the average age continues to increase and about 15 percent of the workforce is continuing to work past retirement eligibility—and is consistent with other prior reports warning that workers should not necessarily count on being able to work for as long as they might be planning.


It found that on average, more than 2 percent of full-time workers experience a new major health shock per year and that about 4 percent experience a new minor shock. Major shocks were defined as occurrences such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or stroke, while minor shocks were defined as the onset of conditions such as arthritis, hypertension or diabetes.

Such incidents increase with age, “which can make older workers particularly susceptible to the negative work-related impacts of disability,” it said, citing data showing that nearly 7 percent of those age 50-62 employed full time experience a new major health shock over a two-year period and nearly 13 percent experience a new minor shock.

“Older workers who suffered from a persistent work-limiting health condition are substantially more likely than their peers without any limitation to stop working, with the difference ranging from less than 17 percentage points at age 59 to 30 percentage points at 67. Although older workers with a disability are especially likely to stop working, disabled workers regardless of age are more likely to leave the labor force as well as to experience other types of labor force transitions, such as reducing their hours of work or changing jobs,” it said.

Read about How to Calculate a Federal Disability Retirement at